Everyone knows that deep, meaningful conversations about the things that matter most are the foundation of relationships - right? Um . . . maybe not.
Back in the day, when we were young and blogging was new, I had a blog buddy I read a good deal called "The Dane." I haven't kept up with him as much in recent years, to my loss I know, but the other day I came across a comment he left on another blog about relationships and it really got me thinking. He had some deep thoughts about the trivialities on which relationships were built.
I'll beg your indulgence for just a moment as I set the scene for the Dane's deep thoughts on some relational superficialities. Rich Clark at Christ and Pop Culture (an excellent blog) started a Twitter Firestorm which yo can read all about by following the links in this post. It's a very interesting discussion on the merits/demerits of twitter. A few of the issues that arise in the whole Twitter discussion are the waste-of-time issue, the who-cares issue, and does-anyone-really-need-to-know-that-about-you issue. These are all worthy topics but this is where the Dane comes in and raises an important point that has application to all relationships:
Relationships are rarely built solely upon the shoulders of conversations that quote-unquote matter. My best and closest friendships are founded on lives lived together—and we would have particularly tepid lives if we hesitated to let the other know: “Dude! I had the best chorizo burrito this morning!” or “I just got back from seeing Before Sunset and it’s everything I could want from a sequel!” or “I have the sniffles.” That stuff right there is the grist of friendships. The heady, quote-unquote worthwhile conversations—the stuff that doesn’t just take up time—may direct relationships but if that’s all there is, you aren’t friends. Just colleagues.
I find this thought profound and as I read it I realized this was something I intuitively knew. Someone once said that a good writer is one who can say what you were thinking better than you could have said it or who can say what you were thinking but just couldn't put into words.
I think the Dane was saying that "conversations that 'matter'" are an important part of relationships but they aren't the be all and end all of them. I don't think you can ever get to those until you've gotten good and comfortable with the more superficial and trivial conversations. I mean really, it would be "deep" if my wife and I got into a conversation about the merits of supralapsarianism vs. infralapsarianism, but that won't "deepen" our relationship near as much as knowing that she likes tulips and I hate fish and me telling some silly story that makes her laugh. Similarly, when it comes to my guy friends, I always enjoy a deep theological conversation, and in the church there is lots of business that needs to be discussed, but those are the conversations of associates. Relationships are built on deep conversations about SEC football and endless "oh yeah, that's nothing, I can top that" stories.
There's another angle to this that I'll only mention briefly and that is that if we take ourselves and life very seriously we'll tend to always be trying to start one of those serious "conversations that matter." I think we might find that, paradoxically, those who take themselves and their lives less seriously can often go deeper on these matters. Chesterton said:
Maybe that works for relationships too - relationships fly when they are comfortable with the lighter side of life.
And in conclusion, while writing this post I have finished an Atkins bar, drank a diet pepsi-max, been to the restroom exactly once and had brief conversations with two ladies from the church who are here to straighten some things up.